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What is a Social Media Platform?

Social Media Platform Defined

“Word of mouth on steroids” is how WebFX describes social media in their recent article on the inner workings of social media. To expound on that: social media platforms are places on the internet where people can communicate with others by using or creating online groups to exchange information such as career interests, personal messages, files, videos, and other media. Different words are used to describe social media platforms, including: internet communities, microblogging, social networks, forums, and social websites.

You could say that any website that accepts comments has a social element, but sites such as Doakio lack other social features like person-to-person connections and user generated groups.

History of Social Media

One could argue that the invention of the telegraph was the first social media technology, way back in the 1840’s. In 1960 Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO) was created to facilitate learning. Other notable social-media systems in the 1970’s include: Advanced Research Projects Agency Network ( ARPANET), Notes, TERM-talk, Usenet and Talkomatic’s online chat system.

In the 1980’s and ‘90’s digital communication (bulletin board messages, real-time chats, email) became more popular with systems like America Online, Prodigy and CompuServe. Later technological advances led to the development of phone cameras and digital cameras which made social media even more popular. Proliferation of smartphone use has also bolstered the rise of today’s social media platforms.

Social Media Platform Features

Common features are listed below, in order of popularity:

  1. Search Function: Enables users to search user-generated content, for friends, status updates, news, images, videos and more.
  1. Block Other Users: Allows users to block other people on the social network. This prevents others from tagging the user and prevents others from seeing things posted on the users timeline.
  1. Text Messaging: The ability to send or post text-only messages to an individual, a group of people, or to your timeline. This is different from SMS/MMS messaging.
  1. News Feed: A data format that provides users with up-to-date content. Users may have some control over what their news feed contains.
  1. Join or Create Groups: Also known as a community, groups are created by users. Also, users can join a group, post to a group, or read from whatever forum or community that they are interested in.
  1. Report Abuse Option: Allows users to report posts or something that goes against the community standards.
  1. Mobile App: Provides a mobile application designed to run on a mobile device, using IOS or Android.

Popular Social Media Platforms

Here are some of the most used social media sites, in order of popularity:

  1. Facebook
  2. VK
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Tumblr
  5. MeWe
  7. Twitter
  8. Gab

To find a social media platform that fits your needs, check out our original research publication on Social Media Alternatives. This publication is always kept up-to-date. Also, we highly suggest you participate in our custom social media platforms survey which allows you to layer in your own importance rating for each feature.

Impact of Social Media

Social media platforms can allow users greater freedom of speech. People freely express opinions on politics, religion and more. A chapter from Social Media Impacts on Conflict and Democracy states: “Compared to legacy media (TV, print media, music studios, films, radio, etc.), social media has increased the speed, scale, scope, speech freedom, sticker price, searchability, types of spaces, secrecy, simplicity and swiftness in technological developments.”

While there are many benefits to social media, there are also negative impacts. Some users can become addicted and exhibit unhealthy behaviors like extremely frequent checking of their account. Also, due to human nature being what it is, truthful, nuanced information does not always travel as fast or as far as inflammatory or emotional content that generalizes towards readers' existing biases.

Who Uses Social Media Platforms

Businesses are looking for innovative ways to integrate social media technology into their company to improve products, services and grow their bottom line. Today, using social media for marketing purposes is a hot topic. According to HubSpot’s Social Media Marketing: The Ultimate Guide, benefits of social media marketing include:

  • Increase Brand Awareness
  • Generate Leads and Boost Conversions
  • Foster Relationships With Customers
  • Learn From Competitors

Individuals also use social media to keep in touch with friends and relatives that live far away. Other reasons may include staying up-to-date with local or national events and news, finding entertainment, sharing opinions, making buying decisions or networking to find employment.

Whoever the social-media user is, it is important to follow a few safety tips: If you are going on a trip, don’t disclose this on social media (until after you are home); be mindful of copyright restrictions when you share info, images, etc.; use complex passwords and appropriate privacy settings.


Today, social media continues to flourish. With improving technology such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning data analysis, social media platform use will only increase and diversify.

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